Popular Twitch streamer and TikTok star Pokeprincxss was bullied in school for loving video games. Her obsession with Pokemon, in particular, formulated much of her childhood memories. When she grew up, she got tattoos of her favorite Pokémon and built a successful persona based on her love of the franchise, including merchandise featuring fan art.
When she trademarked her username two months ago, Nintendo responded with a cease and desist, forcing her to pay back earning from the merch, shut down her online shop and refund thousands of dollars to fans who bought merch they hadn't yet received, and most upsetting to her, change the name she'd been using online for eight years.
But she also wonders if her presence online as a sex worker had an impact on Nintendo's choice to target her. She's had an OnlyFans for more than a year, where she posts adult content. Part of the trademark filing for Pokeprincxss listed "adult entertainment" as its purpose (alongside selling merch like sweatshirts and tank tops).
"[The Pokeprincxss brand] became more than just me being a Pokémon lover, [it became] a girl trying to empower others to be themselves and not care what other people think," Pokeprincxss — now known as Digitalprincxss—told me. "And with sex work, I wanted to help end a stigma against sex work and looking down on sex workers as not people—we're still humans that do things. Pokeprincxss just turned into empowering people."
Digitalprincxss said she used LegalZoom to issue the trademark, an online legal service that offers trademarking with the help of an attorney for $600. But when Nintendo challenged it, she said, the LegalZoom attorney informed her that the service doesn't handle third-party complaints, and wouldn't be able to help her fight Nintendo's complaint. She filed the trademark in May and abandoned it three months later, in late August, after Nintendo sent a cease and desist letter.
In a YouTube video announcing the change and explaining that the company she loves threatened to sue her, she appears calm and accepting of the situation.
She told Motherboard that when Nintendo first sent her a cease and desist in August, she was upset—but accepted that the name had to change. Two months passed where she accepted the situation, but when she had to actually change the name on her socials, she says it hit her again.
Having to change a pseudonym you've used for eight years, and built a successful online persona under, takes an emotional toll. Last week, she held a Twitch stream to commemorate her last one under the name Pokeprincxss, and cried throughout; on TikTok, she made a last post as that username, also through tears.
In retrospect, it would be easy to criticize her for being naive enough to try to sell Nintendo trademarked characters—after all, Nintendo is notoriously protective of its intellectual property. In 2016, Nintendo sent a cease and desist to the makers of Pok_é_mon Uranium right after it launched—after nine years of public, community effort. Also in 2016, Nintendo filed DMCA takedowns against 500 fan-made games. In 2018, it sent a cease and desist for a 3D-printed design of a bulbasaur planter, and reached a $12 million settlement in a lawsuit against pirated game sites.
Pokeprincxss wasn't pirating Nintendo's games, however. Her reasoning for selling fan art merch was that other popular YouTubers and Twitch personalities, and people at conferences, do it seemingly without problem, and even with names that riff on the Pokémon franchise.
She also theorizes that filing a trademark of the Pokeprincxss name under many of the same categories as Pokémon's brand may have set it off, forcing Nintendo to defend its own trademark to keep its rights.
Nintendo's family-friendly image has never stopped people from being horny online about Luigi's dick size or Bowsette cosplay, but Digitalprincxss thinks being a sex worker who sold fan art merchandise may have crossed the line for the company.
“Nintendo doesn’t want people to think that I’m in any way, shape or form affiliated with them, or that I have a partnership with them, and it all comes back to me being an adult entertainer,” she said in the YouTube video announcing the name change.
She said she was forced to pay Nintendo back all of the money she made on merch featuring Pokémon characters, but that was still less than what she had to refund people who'd bought merch from her store but hadn't yet received it, totaling $30,000. Nintendo's revenue for 2020 was more than $12 billion.
Nintendo did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
But in all of her interviews about the name change, on her social media, and to me in our conversation, she has been emphatic that she holds no ill will against Nintendo or their decision, and sees herself and completely at fault for being misinformed about trademark laws.
"I just want to make sure people know that I am not upset at Nintendo, I don't want people to cancel Nintendo—I'm going to show support till the day I die," she told me.
"I wasn't crying or upset because of Nintendo. I was upset because I lost a brand that I worked so hard for... I was never trying to profit off Pokémon. I wasn't trying to be a brand off of Pokémon, I was trying to be a brand of myself."